Friday, 24 February 2012

Crazy about confectioneries

Ok, I admit, a weird blog post title but I have to confess, I'm utterly obsessed with confectionery jars (and their contents). 

The boyfriend finds this very weird but I love my new kitchen worktops being lined with quaint old farmhouse-style jars.  Infact, it doesn't just stop at confectionery - funky olive oil bottles send me giddy and don't even get me started on unique sweet chilli sauce pots.  Walking around Harrods or even John Lewis' Food Halls is like heaven!

You may assume that I'm some stuffy middle-aged woman but no, I'm not (far from it), and you'd be surprised by how many of my friends have the same obsession.  So below are some of my favourites from mine and friends kitchens and, please, share some of your own - everyone loves a good bit of food porn!

Chutney - 01

I LOVE locally made produce and this is delicious on toast!  Huffkins also make some fantastic hampers which are perfect for Christmas time.

Onion Marmalade - 01

Organically produced in Wiltshire, this treat is sold at the Highgrove Estate (home to HRH Prince Charles).  Produce grown on the estate is sold in a fantastic food shop in nearby Tetbury - I could spend hours here.

Found this little gem at The Gazette, a French cafe and restaurant in Balham, South London, which serves a mean pastry selection for brunch.  

Cottage Delights treats are springing up everywhere.  I was a true fan from the start and love their hot spicy sauce set.

Cottage Delight - 02

And here are the olive oil specials!!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

London Life: Highgate

Highgate, North London, is without a doubt one of my favourite places in the Big Smoke.  I've been lucky enough to have joined the crowds of yummy mummies, multi-millionaires, super models (including a certain Miss Moss) and aristocrats that live here and call Highgate my home for the past couple of months (although not for much longer, sob!).

Perfectly situated away from the centre, but not too far that it's still an easy commute, Highgate has escaped the crowds of tourists that flock to Camden Town.  Walking around the streets lined with beautiful houses and even down the High Street it has a feel of being somewhat like a village - making it difficult to believe that you are only eight miles from the centre of London.

Below are some personal highlights that I feel are definitely worth heading up north for:

The Flask  77 Highgate West Hill, N6 6BU
Without a doubt The Flask has one of the best beer gardens you will find in London during both the summer and winter.  Outdoor heating and sheltered seating areas make it enjoyable to sit outside throughout most of the year and in summer it's the perfect place to enjoy a glass of Pimms.  Its appeal and popularity is clear with it sometimes difficult to find seating both indoors and outdoors.
Inside it offers a cluster of rooms, mixing traditional wooden beams with some modern refurbishments and be sure to try some of the great gourmet pub grub it serves up!

Highgate blog - 01
High Tea of Highgate 50 Highgate High St, N6 5HX
Situated on the main High Street in the village, High Tea of Highgate is a quaint little cake and coffee shop and the ideal place for a spot of afternoon tea, scones, jam, butter....the lot!
Offering a variety of homemade classics and a wide selection of teas it's no surprise you often have to wait for a seat here as well.  During the spring and summer it's the perfect stop off to pick-up some carrot cake on the way to Hampstead Heath for a picnic.

Highgate blog - 02
 Hampstead Heath
Ok, so the photos below of Hampstead Heath don't immediately feel you with the desire to pack-up your hamper and head outside but in the summer it is a sun worshippers paradise.
The Heath is HUGE, so huge I definitely don't think I've explored it all. It's a great place for exploring and I've even spotted people tight rope walking between two trees as well as acrobatics performing.
A highlight is Parliament Hill which offers spectacular views over the city and is a hot spot to escape the crowds and catch the New Year's Eve fireworks on the Thames.  It's also by far the best place to go tobogganing down when it snows.
Ideal for sports fanatics there is a running track, tennis courts, bowls club and ponds which the dedicated few take a plunge in EVERY day of the year.  

Below are some photos taken during the recent snow where the ponds frooze over but normally it is a beautiful vast area of greenery.

Highgate blog - 03

Highgate blog - 04

Highgate blog - 05
So Londoners, take a deep breath...escape the comforts of central London for an afternoon and explore the wonders u' north!!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Indulge with that someone special this Valentine's Day

It's true to say that St Valentine's Day has the world population split more so than either love it or hate it.  A day designed for admirers to show their affections and express their feelings to their loved ones, in my eyes, should be everyone's favourite day of the year and the PERFECT excuse to indulge with that someone special, whether it be your partner, best friend, mum, brother or even your dog.

To many it's seen as hype and a way to spend more money on unnecessary pink fluffy cards, expensive boxes of chocolates and flowers that will only wilt away in a few days.  But in a world where there is so much controversy, hatred and fighting, shouldn't we take some time out to show those around us just how thankful we are for their love and happiness that they bring into our lives?

I'd be the first to admit that this year's Valentine's hype has been on overkill since the Christmas decorations were boxed up, so this year go back to basics.  There's no better way to show your loved ones just how much you care and appreciate them than with some indulgent home-made goodies.

Below are some scrumptious suggestions that are easy and affordable to create and are guaranteed to put a huge smile on that lucky person's face.   Perfect as a breakfast surprise, lunchtime treat or as a way to spend some quality time cooking up together.

Enjoy! xx

Blueberry Pancakes
Jam-packed with anti-oxidant goodness, mix a handful of chopped blueberries to your pancake mix before pouring in the frying pan to bring a sweet kick and add some colour. Jamie Oliver has a great, creamy pancake mix recipe. Finish off with your favourite topping (maple syrup goes perfect with this).

Perfect blueberry pancakes

Eggy Bread!
I just loooove a bit of eggy bread in the morning! 

Serves 2
3 eggs
Milk - 200ml
Icing sugar

French Toast recipe - 01
Scrumptious eggy bread

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and a sprinkle of icing sugar.  Generously coat each slice of bread in the mixture and fry until the egg mixture has turned a golden brown colour.  Perfect topped with golden syrup and strawberries.

French Toast Recipe - 02
French Toast Recipe - 03 
Sickly Sweet Cupcakes
Not for those who don't have a sweet tooth.....these sickly treats are ideal to slip into your partner's lunchbox or send in a box anonymously to your Valentine.  To make these sickly treats, make a small well in your cooked cake mixture and pour in caramel or maple syrup and top butter icing mixed with caramel.